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MARGARET PROUSE: From ketchup and mustard to oyster sauce and Indian curry paste, there’s a world of flavours to be found in the fridge

These sauces and dressings are popular in the summer when they can be spread on burgers or used to garnish outdoor meals.
These sauces and dressings are popular in the summer when they can be spread on burgers or used to garnish outdoor meals. - 123RF Stock Photo

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – Even when I haven’t been shopping in a while, there is plenty of food in my fridge. However, you couldn’t necessarily make a meal of it. That’s because a lot of our refrigerator real estate is inhabited by bottles of condiments.

As the weather gets warmer, we’ll be able to grill burgers outdoors, and to garnish them, we’re stocked with the standard ketchup, sweet relish and yellow ballpark-style mustard.

In addition to the yellow mustard, there’s Dijon mustard, of French origin, which I use in salad dressings and often add to sauces. It is made with the strongest mustard seeds, ground and hulls removed, blended with white wine or vinegar and cloves, cinnamon and herbs.

Incidentally, ketchup, which I’d wager is present in most North American fridges, derived its name from a popular Indonesian condiment called ketcap (or ketjap) manis. It is a thick soy sauce sweetened with palm sugar and seasoned with spices, used widely in dishes including nasi goreng (Indonesian fried rice), satay sauce and the spicy peanut sauce for a hearty salad meal called gado gado.

For dishes with roots in the British Isles, we have creamed horseradish (with not a trace of cream in it) to serve with roast beef, mint sauce for lamb and Worcestershire sauce, flavoured with tamarind and anchovies, for soups, sauces and Caesars – bloody or virgin-style.

HP sauce, originally named for the British houses of parliament, is good as an accompaniment for a bacon and eggs breakfast or as a steak sauce.

Bottled hot sauce and my homemade tomatillo salsa both go well in Mexican-style dishes. Tomatillos, or husk tomatoes, look like little green tomatoes encased in a thin husk. They grow like weeds in our vegetable garden, self-seeding year after year, and have a slightly sour taste. Salsa made with them is green and tastes great with quesadillas.

Jerk sauce, based on a Caribbean jerk spice mix, is used to marinate chicken and pork. The mixture contains allspice, pepper, ginger, brown sugar, cinnamon, thyme, garlic and Scotch bonnet pepper. The combination is part of the heritage of West African people brought to Jamaica as slaves in the 17th century.

My fridge contains a number of sauces used in Asian dishes. We have several varieties of commercial Indian curry paste, as well as a red Thai one, to use as bases for curries. It’s a shortcut, I suppose, instead of blending and toasting the spices myself.

Anyone who’s eaten standard North American-style Chinese food will be familiar with soy sauce and plum sauce, but other Chinese sauces have also found a place in our fridge. One of them is black bean sauce, made with fermented black beans and flavoured with garlic and sometimes with star anise.

Another, oyster sauce is, as the name implies, made with oysters, brine, and soy sauce. It’s added to some Cantonese dishes or used as a marinade or dipping sauce.

A third, hoisin sauce, is made from salted yellow soybeans, sugar, vinegar, sesame oil, red rice for colouring and spices. It’s used as dipping sauce, for meat glazes, and in marinades. I sometimes toss a little of it into stir-fries. In the following recipe, it’s an ingredient in a flavourful marinade for fresh salmon.

Orange Hoisin Salmon

Adapted from Chuey, Patricia, Eileen Campbell and Mary Sue Waisman: “Simply Great Food”. Robert Rose Inc., Toronto, 2007.

2 tbsp (25 mL) hoisin sauce

1 tbsp (15 mL) orange juice concentrate

2 tsp (10 mL) grated orange zest

2 tsp (10 mL) liquid honey

Pinch salt

Pinch freshly ground black pepper

4 salmon fillets (about 1½ lb./750 g total) – or substitute salmon

steaks, or trout fillets)

Vegetable cooking spray

Preheat gas grill while you prepare the salmon.

In a shallow bowl, combine hoisin sauce, orange juice concentrate, orange zest and honey. Place salmon in the bowl and turn to coat with the hoisin mixture. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Spray a grill tray with vegetable oil spray and arrange coated fillets in a single layer. Place on grill and reduce heat to minimum. Close cover and cook fish for about 10 minutes per 1 inch (2.5 cm) of thickness, checking often to ensure that the sweet sauce doesn’t burn. Fish will be opaque and flake easily with a fork when done.

Makes 4 servings.

Margaret Prouse, a home economist, can be reached by writing her at RR#2, North Wiltshire, P.E.I., C0A 1Y0, or by email at

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